“Stop thinking as an individual and start thinking as a team.”
What does it mean to belong, and to what lengths will we go to be a part of a group? In The Fits, a girl begins to find a place where she is connected to other girls, but when a strange malady begins affecting the team, how will she react?
Eleven-year-old Toni (Royalty Hightower) has been training in boxing with her older brother at a gym. When she sees a step-dance team practicing, she is attracted to the community they seem to have together. Soon she is part of the team, working hard to learn the routines. The group is a mix of girls her own age who are just getting started and older girls who have been at this for some time. She beings to make friends, but one day, the team captain faints during practice. As the week goes on more of the girls have episodes that may include moaning or shaking or some other manifestation. “The fits,” as the media begins calling the events, have no known cause. But what would it mean for Toni if she didn’t have one of these fits? Would that affect her sense of belonging to the team? Would it make a difference in how the others looked at her?
Such phenomena are sometimes referred to as mass hysteria—and it seems girls in tight knit groups are especially prone to it, although there are examples that include both sexes and various ages. Rarely is there a cause found. It may not even be a conscious process that leads to such episodes. As it plays out in the film we see it all through Toni’s character. She has come to the group as an outsider—one who has been doing most of her previous work alone. She goes through small rites of passage with the group—a press-on tattoo, fingernail painting. Yet, she seems a bit uncomfortable with these things. Her struggle is really about where the border lies between self and group, in short a question of identity.
Because Toni is a preteen, it is easy to see the way her individuality may be eroded by her efforts to belong to a group. But that same dynamic is very much at work in people of all ages. There are groups that even encourage us to give up our individualism for the sake of the group. That is true of teams, like the dance team Toni is part of, but also in business, politics, social settings, even in churches. We often are willing to compromise bits of ourselves, and there may even be good reasons. But what is the cost? Do we in a sense betray ourselves when we give up a part of who we are in order to fit in? Is the individual of more importance than the group? Is the group more important than the individual? How do we find a balance in our own lives? How do we try to bring people into groups (such as a church) and still respect their differences?
Photos courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories